Operation Change the Deformed Smile

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The Background- What is Cleft Lip & Palate
Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form properly. This defect also affects the nose too. These birth defects together are commonly referred to as “orofacial clefts” which happen early during pregnancy. A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both1. Every year over 19,000 children in Africa are born with clefts. Though completely treatable, less than half get the treatment they desperately need, and this is often because they are too poor to afford the treatment2. Two major factors that affect people with cleft lip and palate that relate to health disparities include psychosocial factors, and socio-cultural stigmas. Where there are psychosocial factors, most adolescents with cleft deformity have problems relating to self concept, peer relationships and appearance which in turn affect their self-esteem, social skills and interaction. Sometimes, the effect leads to Socio-cultural Stigma where most cannot eat or speak properly, aren't allowed to attend school or hold a job. Therefore, they face very difficult lives filled with shame and isolation. In some cultures, being born with a cleft is seen as a curse. For instance in Uganda, Africa, every baby born with a cleft is given the name “Ajok” which means literally, “cursed by God.” Some newborns are killed or abandoned right after birth. The Success Story- A bold step can make a difference

In 2005 while still living in Africa, I visited Loma Linda University with my wife. We were privileged to be invited to a meeting with Adventist Health International, one of LLU’s global outreach initiatives, and an organization that I worked for in Nigeria for 10 years. At the meeting we were informed that Smile Train (a global charity organization for cleft lip and palate treatment) was exploring the possibility of implementing a huge intervention in Africa but was hesitant because they had received feedback from some...
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